5 reasons to be optimistic about climate change

Recent accomplishments have paved a way forward for environmental progress.

 

We will solve the challenge of climate change in our lifetimes. It’s a daring assertion, especially given President-elect Donald Trump’s stated and contradictory positions on climate change and environmental protections. But the transformation toward a zero-carbon economy is already happening on the state and local level. And as 2016 comes to a close, here are five reasons to be optimistic about our ability to reduce carbon emissions:

1. A recent study led by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado concludes that the United States can achieve to 80 percent clean renewable energy by 2030, without any new storage or breakthrough technologies.

2. Clean and renewable energy is increasingly outpacing fossil fuels, when it comes to cost. The International Energy Agency found that in 2015, clean energy provided more energy with less investment compared to fossil fuels. The cost of wind energy has been falling and is predicted to drop by up to 30 percent by 2030, and perhaps 41percent by 2050. It’s no wonder that a utility like Xcel Energy in Colorado is both investing heavily in wind energy and predicting $400 million in savings for consumers over the next 20 years.

Congressional staff on a tour at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Dennis Schroeder / NREL

Solar energy, especially in states with friendly policies, is also becoming less expensive and more efficient. The cost of solar has dropped over 60 percent just in the last nine years. In 2015 alone, the cost of solar installation dropped 5 to 12 percent. Solar is already available at the same or lower cost as other electricity sources in many American cities.  This will be true for most Americans in the next five years.

3. Clean energy is a job-creator. In 2015, employment in the U.S. solar business grew 12 times faster than overall job creation. There are now more solar jobs in the United States than jobs in natural gas and oil extraction. Nationally, investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy produce more jobs than investments in fossil fuels, according to PERI’s Global Green Growth report. The report also concluded that if the U.S. were to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent through investments in clean energy, 2.7 million jobs could be created annually.

4. People want to do something about climate change. Here in the West, there is strong support from nearly 80 percent of the public to shift to clean power. This support crosses racial and ethnic boundaries. There is overwhelming support from growing and powerful demographics like millennials. 

Nationally, 77 percent of those surveyed support more funding for renewable energy research, and 74 percent want carbon dioxide regulated as a pollutant, according to a Yale study on public opinion surrounding climate change policies.

5. Leading-edge companies have for years been investing in small-scale solar, clean energy and energy efficiency. Now, the most powerful, most capitalized corporations in history, including Google and Facebook, are making huge investments in clean energy, and demanding clean energy for their facilities and the communities into which they are expanding. Recently, Facebook chose New Mexico as the site of its new $250 million data center, in part due to an agreement reached with state regulators and the utility company, PNM, to power the center with 100 percent renewable energy. In Nevada, Tesla is building the largest battery factory in the world and has plans to manufacture enough batteries to power 500,000 new electric vehicles each year. 

Though I am optimistic about our ability in the West to drastically reduce carbon emissions, the transformation to a zero-carbon economy depends upon good policy decisions that will continue to drive investment in clean energy, incentivize more emissions reductions and clear the way for the transition to clean power and battery storage. 

We need to use the law, science, technological advancement and investment, and sound economic strategy to drive these policy changes at the state level. There is much to do, but with a clear path forward, there is cause for hope in the fight against climate change.

 

Jon Goldin-Dubois is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. He is the president of Western Resource Advocates, a conservation organization that works across six Western states.

High Country News Classifieds
  • POLICY DIRECTOR - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Seeking Policy Director to lead our policy programs to ensure the health/vibrancy of CA's Inyo/Mono Co. public lands. FT or PT. Remote OK but frequent...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Friends of the San Juans (Friends), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is seeking an experienced, passionate, and charismatic environmental leader to continue its strong community leadership...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, ARIZONA CHAPTER
    What We Can Achieve Together: Arizona's Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure...
  • CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Capacity Building Program Manager works directly with the business unit's Arizona Healthy Cities Program Director to advance the Healthy...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND OFFICE MANAGER - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Friends of the Inyo - Donor database management & reporting, IT/HR, and office administrative support. PT or FT. Partly remote OK but some in-office time...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    New Mexico Land Conservancy is seeking a qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating,...
  • GRAPHIC AND DIGITAL DESIGNER
    Application deadline: December 17, 2022 Expected start date: January 16, 2023 Location: Amazon Watch headquarters in Oakland, CA Amazon Watch is a dynamic nonprofit organization...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.